eCommerce



Gerald Huntington lifted his unconscious bride and laid her again
on the sofa. Bowles hurried the not unwilling priest from the room.
The outlaw chief was alone with the beautiful, senseless form of the
hapless girl whom he had torn from the side of her lover before the
very altar, and forced away to share the terrible life of a criminal
who was in hiding from the stern arm of justice.

He knelt down by her side, and took her small white hand in both his
own.

“She fell before I could place the wedding-ring on her finger,” he
said: “I will do so now.”

But in lifting her hand he saw a diamond ring sparkling on one slender
finger. He tore it off quickly, and a spasm of jealous rage convulsed
the handsome features from which he had cast aside the disfiguring mask.

“Valchester’s gift, doubtless,” he said, holding it scornfully on the
tip of his finger. “Let us see what dainty motto the poet chose for his
darling!”

He held the sparkling circlet up to the light and read the fine lines
cut deeply within it:

“_Sans peur et sans reproche!_”

Then a groan forced itself through his lips that had grown suddenly
cold and pallid.

“Ah, my God! the _Ardelle_ motto! How comes it on the hand of this
child?”

But the pale, silent lips of the wronged girl made him no answer. She
lay still, with the dark fringe of her lashes lying low upon her white
cheek. His eye caught the gleam of a golden locket lying on her breast.

“Ah!” he cried, jealously tearing it open, “my rival’s dreamy face,
perhaps.”

A woman’s curl, soft and dark, fell from the locket into his hand, and
seemed to twine about his fingers as if in tenderness. He shut it into
his hand, and looked for the expected picture of the hated rival.

Two faces smiled out upon him. One was a man’s–gentle, tender, dreamy,
handsome–the other a face, dark and lovely, with a luring charm about
its vivid beauty. The fury, the passion, the jealous rage died out of
the outlaw’s face as he gazed. His fierce, dark eyes grew soft, then
startled, and the whiteness of death overspread his face. He opened his
hand, and looked fixedly at the long, curling tress.

“My God!” he uttered, and his eyes roved from the fair face in the
picture to that of the still unconscious girl. Something in the strange
likeness of the two affected him terribly.

“Can it be?” he said, aloud; and as if he had asked her a question, the
white lids of Jaquelina fluttered upward, and she fixed her dark eyes
upon him.

Then she saw that he held her treasured locket open in his hand, and a
gleam of anger flashed from her eyes.

“How dare you?” she cried, trying to wrench it from him.

But the outlaw caught the weak little hands and held them tightly.

“Girl,” he said, hoarsely, “tell me whose faces are these you wear upon
your breast?”

Something in his strong, repressed agitation forced a reply from
Jaquelina’s pale lips.

“They are those of my father and mother,” she replied, wonderingly.

“Your mother’s maiden name?” he asked, fixing his dark, magnetic eyes
upon her face.

And again some power that seemed beyond her own volition, held her
passionate anger in abeyance, and forced her to reply, quietly:

“_Jaqueline Ardelle._”

The man started–a groan of agony forced itself between his bloodless,
pain-drawn lips.

“For God’s sake, I ask you, for God’s sake, tell me all you know of
your mother,” he exclaimed, in low, tense accents, while his black eyes
seemed to burn with inward fire.

“I know very little to tell you,” she said, with increasing wonder at
his fearful agitation, for great drops of dew beaded his high, white
brow. “I have told you her name was Jaqueline Ardelle. My father
married her in the south of France. He was an artist, and fell in love
with her beauty. He brought her home with him, and when I was born she
died.”

“And this was her hair–her ring–her locket?” he said, as she paused,
and then Jaquelina saw for the first time that he had taken her
mother’s ring from her finger. She reached out her hand for it as she
said, sadly:

“Yes, that was her ring and her locket, and that was a curl they cut
off for papa after she was dead. And this dress I have on now was my
mother’s wedding-dress.”

There was a pause. The dark eyes of the outlaw were fixed on the
curl in his hand. Its silken tendrils seemed to twine about his hand
caressingly.

“Give me the curl. I will put it back in the locket,” said the girl,
rising abruptly to a sitting posture.

“No–no,” the outlaw murmured, dreamily, like one talking in his sleep.

“Give it to me,” Jaquelina repeated, half angrily. “It is mine–mine.”

Then Gerald Huntington sprang to his feet, and towered above her in his
princely hight and satanic beauty.

His face was livid, his eyes flashed fire. He threw the silken curl
into her lap with a muttered curse.

“Take it,” he cried, madly, “take it, and with my curse! I am baffled!
baffled! In the moment of my revenge the golden wine of happiness has
turned to poison on my lips! I have loved you madly, and made you my
bride, but you can never, _never_ be _wife_ of mine! These arms may
never hold you, these lips never press your own! Go, girl; go out of my
sight forever! Go, before in the madness of my love and despair, I lay
you dead at my feet!”

Jaquelina needed no second bidding.

The outlaw chief had turned away with his dark face hidden in his hands.

She slipped from her seat, and gliding softly across the carpeted
floor, passed between the heavy velvet hangings and disappeared in the
perilous gloom and darkness of the cave beyond, leaving the outlaw
chief solitary and alone, stricken by some mysterious, blighting secret.